Political Party Brands or Consumer Brands: The Choice is Not yours

Jess O’Reilly – GreyShopper London

Who will win at today’s political checkout? The likelihood is that no one party will, because the main parties have failed to understand the basics of how we make choices as consumers: we like brands that stand out and that connect with us emotionally.

In the build up to the General Election, Grey London hosted a panel of speakers to analyse the subconscious factors that influence who we vote for and the implications this has for the brands we buy every day:

Stephen Adams – Partner at Global Counsel and political speech writer

Tim Allan – founder of Portland and key media advisor to Tony Blair and the Labour Party during the 1997 election
Eli Pariser – CEO of Upworthy and Board President of MoveOn.org
Heather Andrew – CEO of Neuro-Insight
Leo Rayman – Chief Strategy Officer of Grey London

Filtering via our subconscious

Although choosing your favourite cereal brand is vastly different from deciding who you want to shape the country’s future, it’s easy to draw parallels when you consider our basic selection and deselection processes. Because while we like to think that most of our decisions are rational and considered, the fact is, the emotional right side of our brain forms most of our subconscious bias opinions for us. These then filter through the linguistic and rational left side of the brain to leave us feeling like our decisions are well thought through.

Put simply, you’re more likely to buy Kelloggs brand corn flakes for your children if that’s what your parents fed you as a child, the same way you are more likely to vote Labour if your parents are Labour supporters.

So what we see and feel as humans speaks to our subconscious, and this is why political and consumer brand image – and the ability to make the decision process feel heuristic – is crucial in winning us over.

Selection through brand image

In this year’s general election it seems to be the audacious politicians who are grabbing our attention. Both Nigel Farage and Nicola Sturgeon are promising to “shake up and reform” Westminster, and although what they stand for differs significantly, they are both attracting support through means of their communication style.

Farage, who leads a party that seems incredibly frustrated by the way the country is currently run, is able to attract voters who feel the same way by embodying this feeling when he speaks, and harnessing this emotion in listeners. Whereas the positive perceptions of Sturgeon come from personal attributes that can stretch across political and national borders; she portrays empathy, unrehearsed confidence in her convictions and most importantly, an authenticity that makes her come across as one of us.

Now compare this with the personality of brands like M&M’s and Red Bull. When M&M’s rebranded using now famous, comedic characters it injected a lot of personality into the brand. With its campaigns continuing to align with the overall brand strategy we’ve seen it become a global culture, with an increase in sales of 600%. And then Red Bull, a brand built on effective marketing, displays a consistently strong brand image by defying the marketing norms to resonate with people. From pulling off the most expensive advertising stunt in history to getting as close to consumers as possible with its “street marketing strategy”, consumers know and love the brand because it’s audacious, and it’s real.

Selection through brand positioning

If you saw Steve Coogan’s political broadcast for Labour on the weekend you might understand how easily perceptions can shift when you position your brand right. Coogan delivered the same message that Miliband has given time and time again, but because it was Coogan – a man who earns a living from entertaining and engaging people – he added an extra layer of impactful emotion to his political POV. If Steve Coogan were the face of Labour, perhaps we would see more supporters. And it works the same way for shopper brands; you can have two competing brands with similar benefits, but if one brand can engage its shopper audience on an emotional level, then it’s going to win at the checkout.

“The faces of the coalition “

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